One of the most popular traditional dishes in Bulgaria is - Banitsa. Its name is different in every region, some use the Slavic word “blin”, others – Turkish or Greek versions of that word. But nevertheless, Banitsa is inevitably present on the table on many Bulgarian holidays. It also represents the circle of life because the recipes are passed down from generation to generation, in this way preserving a tradition. So, it is definitely worth trying, especially if I tell you how tasty it is!
There are numerous types of Banitsa – sweet, sour, with cheese, pumpkin, potatoes, spinach, apples, etc. It looks like a pie but is made with a filo pastry, like the Turkish “baklava”, for example.
On the New Year's Eve, 10 days after the 40-day fasting period is over, in Bulgaria we make Banitsa with white feta cheese (Sirene) and bake good luck messages into it. This is a very popular custom, which serves as a promise that we will reach all the goals and dreams and be happy.
For a classical Banitsa (like the one we have on the New Year's Eve) with white feta cheese, you will need 400 g of filo pastry, 4 eggs, 400 g of yogurt (if you have access to it, the Bulgarian yogurt is the best option for this recipe), 300 g of feta cheese, ¾ of a teacup with oil, 1 tablespoon of baking soda and a little bit of butter to put on top of the Banitsa. The preparation is really easy and does not take much time or effort, even if you are not a skilled chef. You just scramble the eggs – whites and yolks together, add yogurt, cheese, 2/4 of the teacup with oil and the baking soda. You mix all those ingredients in a bowl until you get a blended mixture. Then you leave the bowl aside and start preparing the filo pastry.
You need a large baking tin, which you brush with oil. Then, you take two sheets of filo pastry from the package, spread them in the tin and put a few drops of oil over them as well. You take a ladle of the already prepared mixture in and spread it evenly onto the filo sheets. After that, you roll the sheets with the stuffing in them, until it looks like a snail.
You repeat this procedure until you use up all the filo sheets and mixture. Each time, you roll the new “snail” around the last one you already made, until they all form a big one. You arrange the Banitsa in the baking tin, spread the butter on it and bake it for about 25 minutes on 200 degrees in a pre-heated oven.
As already mentioned, Banitsa is a very popular dish, which you can find on every corner, but there are some interesting bakeries though. One option is to visit the „Happy Bakery“ („Щастливата пекарна“) in Sofia. A more central option is the bakery “Petraki 2” in Stara Zagora, near the central part of the town.
Banitsa is not only a popular dish but also one of the national symbols of Bulgaria, that links our cultural heritage to that of other Balkan countries. It is important to keep traditions like this alive because they keep us alive as a nation as well. In a way, Banitsa represents the circle of life, the way to keep traditions alive from generation to generation. It definitely is a tasty must-try!
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